SCOTT ROSTS/Courtesy Niagara This Week
ST. CATHARINES – A long-time vision will come to fruition — temporarily to start with — when the city begins a pilot project to establish a civic square next month.
On Monday night, St. Catharines City Council approved the pilot, which will include shutting down James Street from the old courthouse to King Street from Aug. 1 to Nov. 1, to roll out the new feature. It will include outdoor seating and enhanced amenity space on James Street in what the city hopes will serve as a first step towards the eventual creation of a new civic square.
“It’s a way to continue to expand on some of the enhancements taking place in the downtown core and expand on the very successful market we have,” Mayor Brian McMullan said following the city council meeting on Monday night.
The creation of such public space was recommended as part of the city’s Creative Cluster Master Plan, and the Downtown Development and Revitalization Committee identified James Street and Market Square as the preferred location back in February. There would still be access to Market Square from Church Street, but the portion of James Street in front of Gord’s Place and Tim Hortons would be shut down, with planters placed on both ends of the street closure as barriers. Tables and umbrellas would also be placed in the space.
McMullan likened the vision to what you would find in a place such as Ottawa’s Byward Market.
“It becomes that meeting place, a hub for St. Catharines,” McMullan said, later adding it is space like this that people “often remember” about municipalities. He said the pilot is being supported by the business operators located on the portion of James Street that will be closed. Both businesses are interested in partnering with the city on the design, which could include the creation of additional patio space on James street.
Paul De Divitiis Jr. of Gord’s Place is excited about the potential of a civic square.
“I think the downtown needs something like this,” he said. “This is something that will draw even more people to the core.”
Downtown is being revitalized, he added, and said they are excited to see an initiative like this happen, at least in the early stages, as the downtown evolves.
“Downtown is going in the right direction right now, and hopefully in a few years you will see this as a permanent, maybe larger project,” he said. “There are some real great opportunities we’re going to have.”
The city is already looking at different opportunities for the enhanced space. In a report to council, city staff said it could include canadian pharmacy cialis expanding the market for vendors, or to use as an improved venue for the existing concert series in Market Square.
While the pilot wraps up on Nov. 1, the city said if successful, the installation could be redeployed, altered or relocated for next summer. Public comment on the test case will be solicited and welcome, and will help shape the future civic square project downtown, with creation of a master plan possibly down the road.
This project, said McMullan, has been identified as a top priority for council, and he would love to see a permanent civic square in place in the coming years.
McMullan said parking should not be affected with the change. The original pilot would only impact five parking spaces on that stretch, and the city anticipates the impact will be minimal due to the close proximity of other city lots, including the Carlisle Parking Garage.
Financially the city’s Green Committee has committed $5,000 to the project, with the Region of Niagara considering matching the funds through its Smarter Niagara grants program for public realm improvements.
The city says there will be operational costs associated with the set-up of the road closure, including signage, outdoor furniture, barricades and waste receptacles. The estimated cost is about $2,500, which will be accommodated within the operating budget.
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